By-election results leave us with a clouded crystal ball
Hopes that the two district council polls would be a pointer to Legislative Council by-elections in March were dashed as opposing sides shared the spoils
The latest district council by-election showdowns were supposed to be a prelude to those for the legislature in March. After all, Sunday’s elections were the first held since the controversial disqualification of six opposition lawmakers over improper oath-taking.
As it turned out, the results were ambiguous and voter turnout was low. People just weren’t enthusiastic about neighbourhood elections at The Peak and the Tung Wah constituency in Sheung Wan. The opposition and the government-friendly camps each secured a win.
Perhaps the most interesting result was the decisive defeat of Edward Chin Chi-kin at The Peak, by Jeremy Young Chit-on, a former political assistant with the government and rising star within the pro-business Liberal Party. Young secured more than three times as many votes as Chin, who was a core member of the 2014 Occupy protest movement. Chin received only 394 votes despite campaign support from such opposition godfathers as Martin Lee Chu-ming, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and Alan Leong Kah-kit.
Young’s victory is seen as a stepping stone to running for a seat in the Central and Western district in the crucial Legislative Council election in 2020.
Chin ran on his Occupy credentials. Predictably, that hardly endeared him to voters at The Peak, one of the city’s wealthiest and most conservative neighbourhoods. A more moderate pan-democrat might have fared better. That was indeed the case in the Tung Wah by-election, where the mainstream Democrat Bonnie Ng Hoi-yan won a narrow victory with 1,034 votes against the 909 secured by Lui Kam-keung.
Ng, wisely, focused on livelihood issues at the district level rather than running a politicised campaign. Her rival Lui was described as an independent, though he was supported by pro-establishment heavyweights such as former Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, Executive Council and Legco member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and former secretary for food and health Dr Ko Wing-man. He reportedly campaigned in a car that belonged to the state-owned Cofco Group, the mainland food-processing giant.
Given the kind of support he had, Lui might as well have run on a ticket with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s dominant pro-establishment party.
The DAB didn’t field any candidate, even though the seat Lui was fighting for was vacated by one of its members.
Those hoping to use Sunday’s by-election results as a crystal ball to what will happen in March have been disappointed.